Saturday, June 30, 2012

Grab-n-Go Evacuation Preparedness

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We have had quite the fire season here in Utah and there have been several mandatory evacuations.  If you had to immediately leave your home would you be able to grab the most important items and leave??  If I wasn't prepared for that I would probably be running around like a chicken with it's head cut off.  My family has lists hanging on our hall closet door, and we had a family night meeting to practice our grab-n-go lists.  Just like a fire, tornado, or earthquake drill you have to practice.  We timed ourselves and tried to get everything on our list. It was fun but I know that isn't how it will play out in an emergency.  I made a few different lists because we may have 5 minutes, or maybe up to a days notice of an evacuation.  Start with the most basic and important items such as birth certificates, SS cards, purses, computers, pets, etc. and then add the extras if you have more time.  I even let my children add what they wanted to take if we had the time to grab it and added them to the lists.   

You'll see that my lists are not fancy and I hand wrote them onto note cards.  They are divided up into 5 minute, 1 hour, and the third card is if we have longer than 1 hour to grab things.  I also noticed that I need to update my cards because my daughter's hamsters died a few months ago and I need to take them off.  Also my children's ideas of what is important to them change and I need to update that as well.

Everyone's lists will be different, but my list 5 minute list says:
  • Bird and food
  • File Folder Box
  • Laptop
  • 72-hour kits
  • Water under stairs
  • Mom's purse & Dad's planner
  • Cooler with fridge items (milk for toddler and other food)

This is a great video showing 2 different families and how they were prepared, or not, to be evacuated.

 In a stressful situation you will not be thinking clearly at all!  Have a list all written out and know where your most important items are.  We have a file folder box with all of our important papers in it.  We will just grab it and leave.  Also, think about storing your photos on flash drives and store them in the file folder box as well.  It will be too hard to try and save every family photo album, plus they will take up precious space in a car.  Decide now what items will make the lists and who will be in charge of getting them.  There would be no way I could gather everything by myself, so we divided up the duties of who will grab what and in what rooms of the house each of us is in charge of.

Another great tip is to have a map of your area with more than one route out.  Know where the local high schools are, or churches, because that will probably be where you'll be instructed to go.  Keep the map in your car along with your car kit.  

This is also a great time to go over your Family Emergency Plan.  Talk with your family about a meeting place if they are not at home during an evacuation.  How would your husband, or you, get home from work?  Make sure to have an Out Of State Contact (OSC) and let that person know they have been chosen :)  My sister knows that she will be our contact and my children are to call her and let them know if they are ok and where they are located.  During an emergency the local phone lines will be tied up, but calling out of state will give you better chances of getting through.  My sister will be our home base for me to check in and see how everyone is doing.  Giving your OSC a copy of important papers is also a good idea, just in case you aren't home during an evacuation.   

Click HERE to see a very detailed family emergency plan. 

 And click THIS LINK to print off family information cards.

Click HERE to see a great grab and go list from

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chilling With My Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker

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I am not shy when I talk about the Saratoga Jacks Thermal cooker here on my blog.  It really is a favorite kitchen appliance that I use in my daily cooking.  All of my posts on the thermal cooker have been heating the food up to a boil and then slow cooking it in the cooker base.  Well, yesterday I needed to take a pasta salad to a neighborhood party and guess what I used as my cooler??  Yup, my Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker!!  

 While I prepared my salad I placed my pots into the freezer.  Normally if I had the time I would have had them in the fridge chilling, but I forgot to do this beforehand.  They were only in the freezer about 15 minutes so I don't think it hurt the pans.  I made THIS pasta salad.  Then I chilled the salad in the larger pan in the fridge until we left for the party.  Since my salad didn't take up all the room in the larger pot, I added some chilled mini carrots to the smaller pan and stacked them together.  This way my pots will stay colder longer.  

 Into the fridge went the pots and I was set for the party.  I can't tell  you how easy it was to transport this salad too.  The pans went right into the cooker base and I carried it easily to the car.  I noticed all the other salads at the party with the plastic wrap and tin foil covers.  I loved just opening the cooker and serving my salad from the larger pot.  Plus I didn't have to search for my missing plastic wrap after the party, I just closed up the cooker and took it to my car. 

There are multiple ways you can use the thermal cooker for cooling;  popsicles at the pool or park, ice cream, or ice cream sandwiches, pasta and potato salads, cut up veggies and dip, greens for a salad in the larger pot and veggies in the smaller top pot (no wilting and can mix salad when ready to serve),  water or sports drinks at the kids sporting events, and the list could go on and on!!  I love this thermal cooker, I mean cooler :)

Click HERE to view other posts on the Saratoga Jacks Thermal cooker.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prepare Today Homemade- Spinach Salad

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This recipe came out of necessity because of all the spinach I had coming out of the garden.  It originally called for strawberries, but we had cartons of blackberries from a local grocery store sale and they were delicious too. 

Spinach and Fancy Lettuce from my garden.

Spinach Salad

2 T sesame seeds (I got a .87lb bag for $3.99 at Honeyville) toast them!!
1 T poppy seeds
1/2 C white sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C white vinegar
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T minced onion (I used about 1 1/2 t dehydrated onion reconstituted)
10 oz. spinach rinsed, dried and torn into bite sized pieces
1 quart of strawberries or blackberries
1/4 C almonds optional

Whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and onion.  Refrigerate for an hour or more.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Freezer Meal Cooking

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 Since I am on a trip for my 16th anniversary...this is a re-post from March 13, 2010.  Freezer meals are a great way to save time and money.  Enjoy!

Wouldn't it be nice to come home from work or from running kids around and have a warm dinner waiting for you? Freezing dinners gives you the convenience of being gone up to dinner time and still get a warm meal on the table. Most days I am so exhausted and don't have the energy to cook and pulling a thawed meal from the fridge and just cooking it makes my day.

Find it on AMAZON

Deanna Buxton is the author of "Dinner Is Ready" ( and she put together the World Wide Ward Cookbook) and she shares how to cook 30 meals in one day. That may sound really difficult but it can be done. All it takes is a little organization and preparation and freezer space. I am not asking any of you to do this, I just wanted to throw the idea out there and let you know of Deanna's book. I have done the 30 meals in a day a couple times and it is wonderful.

What is freezer worthy? Deanna lists several foods that do not freeze well or need special preparation. Potatoes, unless they are hash browns, should not be frozen. Vegetables do soften during freezing and if you are using fresh vegetables they need to be blanched first. If you are adding buttered crumbs or french fried onions add them at baking time or they will get soggy. Pasta can be frozen, but you need to under cook it by 2 minutes. Pasta continues to absorb moisture during freezing and thawing. Anything with gelatin should not be frozen.

I like to use the disposable foil baking pans and gallon size freezer zip lock bags to freeze my dinners. You will also need to use heavy freezer foil to cover the foil pans. And don't forget to label each meal before it goes into the freezer. I like to add the temperature and how long to cook the food. Thaw all food in the fridge. It may take up to 2 days to fully thaw some dinners, so plan ahead if you can. Don't mess with any pasta dish until it is fully thawed or you may get pasta mush.

Onto the recipes. These are a few of my favorites from Deanna's book "Dinner Is Ready".

Cream Cheese Chicken
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
1 stick of butter (or use 1/2 chicken broth)
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8oz cream cheese

Turn your crock pot on high and melt butter. Add salad dressing mix and stir. Cut chicken into 1" strips and place in crock pot and stir to coat. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Remove the chicken to cool and add soup and cream cheese to crock pot. Stir to melt and mix until creamy. Remove sauce from crock pot and allow to cool. Place everything a freezer bag. Label and freeze.

To serve: Thaw and heat until piping hot and bubbly. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or butter noodles.

Taco Pie
1 lb ground beef
1 onion chopped
1 package taco seasoning
1 4oz can sliced olives
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls
1 C re fried beans
1 10 1/2oz package corn chips, crushed
1 C sour cream

Brown ground beef with onion. Add taco seasoning, olives and tomato sauce. Flatten crescent roll dough and press onto bottom of foil baking pan. Heat re fried beans and mix with 2 T of water to make spreadable. Spread over crust. Top with 1 C of cheese. Cover crust with half of the crushed corn chips. Spoon meat mixture over corn chips. Cover with sour cream. Sprinkle with remaining 1 C cheese. To with remaining corn chips. Cover with heavy foil. Label and freeze.

To serve: Thaw and bake uncovered 45 minutes at 375.

This week I challenge you to double one of your dinners and put the extra dinner in the freezer for another meal down the road. Don't forget to add some meat and frozen food to your 3-month supply.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Prepare Today Homemade- Chocolate Mug Cake

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Homemade chocolate cake in about a minute???  I should throw away this recipe and forget how easy it is to make, because it really it too easy to have chocolate cake.  I've had this recipe for a few years, but my kids found it for family night last week and we have made it several times since.  

I made several changes to the original recipe so I could use all food storage ingredients.  The original recipe calls for 3 T oil and even my kids thought that sounded like too much.  So I substituted applesauce for the oil, and not just regular old applesauce, dehydrated applesauce.  I had never tried it before and it worked great.  

 Math is not my strong point and I had no idea how to figure out how much of the apple granules it took to make 3 T of applesauce, so I just added some hot water to 3 T of granules.  It made more than I needed but I didn't want to get a headache from trying to figure out the math :)  After, we figured out that the 3 T of dry applesauce made about 6 T of wet, so it was enough for 2 desserts.  Once the dried apple pieces soaked up the hot water, they needed to be mashed.  I used a fork but it was still kind of chunky, I pulled out my immersion blender to smooth it out.  

 Mix the dry ingredients in a mug and stir with a fork.

Add the wet ingredients...applesauce and water.

 Combine with a fork and add in chocolate chips.  

Microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds and you have a yummy, chocolaty dessert.  Plus it only has 11 points on weight watchers.  (29 points if you use the oil and not applesauce)  I am not on weight watchers but I found that interesting.  

Chocolate Mug Cake
1 coffee mug
4 T flour (try half wheat and half white)
4 T white sugar
2 T baking cocoa
1 egg (1 T egg powder + 2 T water)
3 T milk (1/2 T powdered milk + 3 T water)
3 T applesauce (or oil)
small dash of vanilla
3 T chocolate chips

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, egg powder and milk powder to the mug.  Stir with a fork until combined.  Add 5 T of water, applesauce and dash of vanilla.  Combine with fork and add in chocolate chips.  Stir until combined.  Cook in microwave for 1 1/2 - 3 minutes.  The cake may rise up above the mug, don't worry!!  Our cakes only took 1 1/2 minutes.

 This is a seriously dangerous dessert!!  Way too easy and way too good!!  My kids even know how to make it by themselves now, and I have even thought of making it into a jarred mix so we don't have to get out all the ingredients every time we want dessert. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Emergency Splints

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I have had the itch to purchase these emergency splints for awhile now. 

 On Sunday, the sweetest lady named Winona, brought a package of emergency inflatable splints to church to show everyone how great they would be in an emergency.  She told us the story of her daughter breaking her arm at the YWCA as a child, and all they had to splint  her arm was a Time magazine.  Her husband is a retired physician and he gave her the thumbs up on this product.  This was the nudge I needed to go and buy them.  I have had the ad for Recreation Outlet on my counter for 2 weeks and after Winona brought the splints to church I knew I needed to buy them.

Recreation Outlet is a dangerous store for me to go into.  :)  I want to buy one of everything, but I decided I could use self-restraint and go for my intended purchase, Emergency Splints. (it was a good idea in theory, but we did buy more) They are only $2.99 for 4 splints.  I tried them out on my kids and we were able to blow them up and deflate them several times, so I don't think they are a one-time use splint.  I couldn't find on the package if it said they could be deflated, but we just poked the straw a little further into the splint and let the air out.  

The package comes with 4 splints and a tourniquet. The package says 2 arm splints, 1 calf, and 1 thigh splint.  They are all an adult size and even the smallest splint was longer than my forearm.  On the package it looks like it would fit the forearm but they are larger than depicted.

 They were really easy to blow up and inflated quickly.  My kids thought it was fun, even though my daughter looks not quite sold on the idea.  As I said before we deflated them just as quickly, but in an emergency I would imagine they would have to be cut off when the injured person reached a doctor.  I had to squeeze the splint against their arms to deflate and I am sure that wouldn't be comfortable if their arms were really broken. 

 The splint covered my 12 year old's forearm and elbow and it really got quite tight.  
The back of the package.
So, for the low price of $2.99 I purchased several of these to have on hand.  I hopefully will never need them, but they are a great addition to our first aid kit.  (and yes I couldn't resist, I purchased several other things too before I could get out of the store)

Recreation Outlet
3160 S. State St.


sign up for email alerts and sales!! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prepare Today Homemade- Easy Spinach Lasagna

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All the spinach from my garden was ready at the same time and my family will only eat so many spinach salads.  To help me decide what to make, I went directly to and searched for a recipe to use up my spinach.  My favorite thing about is the index search by ingredient.  I typed in spinach into the search engine and got hundreds of ideas.  Each recipe is also ranked and has reviews, so a great tasting meal is almost guaranteed.  

I decided on Easy Spinach Lasagna and it truly was the easiest dinner to put together.  There is no need to boil the noodles, just layer everything into the pan and cook!  That is my kind of dinner!!

Start off by mixing the ingredients in a bowl..
 The original recipe called for frozen spinach but I just tore up some of my fresh spinach and it worked great!  I also substituted cottage cheese for the ricotta cheese because that is what I had on hand.  (remember THIS trick)

Then I started layering the lasagna.
Start by pouring pasta sauce into the bottom of the pan, layer the lasagna noodles and then add the cottage cheese mixture.  I noticed there was a big space at the end of the pan, so I broke one of the noodles and placed it along the short side of the pan to fill up the void.
This was soooo much easier than cooking the noodles and then trying to lay them in the pan while burning my fingers on hot, slippery noodles.  
This is the trick to cooking the noodles, pour 1/4 C hot water around the edges of the pan.  This will give the dry pasta noodles enough liquid to cook.  Every noodle was cooked through and delicious!

Easy Spinach Lasagna
1 15-oz container ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 10-oz frozen spinach (thawed and well drained) I used about 1 C chopped fresh spinach (canned would probably work too)
2 C mozzarella (or freeze dried mozzarella)
1 jar pasta sauce
8 uncooked lasagna noodles
1/4 C water

Mix together the ricotta/cottage cheese, spinach, and 1 C cheese.  Spread 1 C pasta sauce into the bottom of a 13x9 pan.  Layer 3 noodles across and break another noodle to fit across the short end of the pan.  Layer about 1/2 of the spinach mixture on top of the noodles, then repeat layers.  Slowly pour the water around the edges of the pan. Cover and bake at 400° for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Sorry for the bad photo.  I forgot the take a picture and my daughter was about to eat the last piece and I hurried and snapped this shot.

There are many different ways to add in more veggies and spices to this basic recipe.  I added a sprinkling of onion powder and Parmesan cheese, but you could add mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, meat, tvp meat, etc.  Or use all freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients.  It would be possible with freeze dried mozzarella cheese!  I may even double the cottage cheese mixture next time and make more layers, it was kind of a shallow lasagna, but your imagination and pantry items are your limits.  I also can't wait to try this recipe in my Sun Oven. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Garden Update

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Growing a garden is definitely a skill that needs to be perfected before any kind of an emergency.  I admit this is one area of preparedness that I find kind of difficult.  I try every year to plant a garden but it is in no way our sole source of food during the summer and fall, and I have a long way to go before we are self-sufficient and eating off of our land.  

Square foot gardening is what has worked for me so far and so I continue to try and grow a garden in the easy to use grids. 

This is how my garden looked at the beginning of May....

....and here it is on June 2nd.  It has actually grown quite a bit over the last week too.  The peas in the back have grown taller and so have the lettuces in the front.  The box on the left has strawberries and hopefully potatoes soon.  

 This is the view of my garden from my kitchen window.  The box on the far right has zucchini and cucumbers, the box second to the right has tomatoes, carrots, and a volunteer onion, the third box from the right has peas, several lettuces, spinach, and broccoli (that didn't grow), and the far left box has strawberries.  I tried potatoes in the black garbage can last year but they didn't grow and I think it was because they didn't get enough water all the time.  The potatoes I grew in the garden box grew great, so I may stick to planting them in with the strawberries again.  I really don't know what I am doing but I am planting and trying every year.

This year my husband got into the edible gardening and planted grapes and an artichoke.  It will be really exciting if we can get them to produce.

 He also planted raspberries.  I really hope these grow well, I love raspberries. 

My goals for gardening are:
  • grow only non-GMO or heirloom plants and save seeds (a must for self-sufficiency)
  • grow more food every year to limit our dependency on the grocery store
  • learn what plants grow well in my area and how to keep bugs away organically
  • winter gardening using cold frames
Gardening is an adventure and you never know what you'll get at the end of the season but it is a fun learning experience.  Get outside and try...."We learn a lot more from our own experiences than any book could ever teach us." - Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chef Tess' Meals In A Jar- Breakfast Edition!

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Today I attended another great class at Honeyville Grain, taught by the rockstaress of food storage, Chef Tess.  (aka Stephanie Peterson)  Chef Tess hails from Arizona so it is a real treat to be able to see her in person.  She has mastered the meals in a jar concept and has used her chef skills to come up with some amazing "food storage" meals in a jar.  I say "food storage" because the meals are great for an emergency, BUT they are too fabulous to just store away downstairs.  They are perfect for everyday meals!!!  

Chef Tess AKA Stephanie Peterson at Honeyville Grain

Today's class was all about breakfast meals in a jar.  Who knew there could be a whole class on breakfast meals that come in a mason jar??  I was really excited to see what Chef Tess came up with.  She didn't disappoint, and her ideas really motivated me to amp up my breakfasts.  Cold cereal and an occasional oatmeal are seen at my breakfast table and I really needed some new, healthy ideas for my family.  The meals that Stephanie shared were so unusual but so tasty at the same time.  

Stephanie has created many meals that use freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients to create warm, yummy meals.  Check out her blog HERE to see more on her 52-Jar Method.  It really is a great way to have EDIBLE food storage MEALS!  

Baked Ziti from Chef Tess- find it on her blog

 In the class Chef Tess made 3 different jarred meals and I loved all of them!  She made "Country Sausage, Hash Brown and Pepper-Cheese Scrambled Egg Breakfast", "Carmel Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Breakfast Pudding", and "Chef Tess '6 Grain Carrot Cake Breakfast Pudding".  Don't be scared of that last one.  I for one was and I took a tiny nibble of it and then quickly finished off my serving.  It was really, really good!  And yes you heard it can have chocolate for breakfast :)  The chocolate added to the farina is pure genius!! 

I came home from the class and made some of the Chocolate Truffle Pudding because it was so good. We really like Cream of Wheat at our house and I have really wanted to find a new way to make it and this is definitely a new way.  (fyi- Cream of Wheat is the trademark name of Farina wheat)

Caramel Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Breakfast Pudding
 Chef Tess' Caramel Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Breakfast Pudding &  find Chef Tess on facebook and twitter

I used strawberries instead of raspberries because that is what I had on hand.

1 C Honeyville Farina (Cream of Wheat is the trademark name of farina)
1/4 C Honeyville Chocolate raspberry hot cocoa mix 
1/4 C dark baking cocoa powder (dutch)
1 1/2 t butterscotch powder flavor
1/3 C dehydrated honey powder or sugar
1/3 C Honeyville freeze dried raspberries

Layer the ingredients in order into a pint mason jar.  If it looks like it won't fit, shake the jar (not up and down just jostle the jar a little) or tap the edge of the jar until the contents settle.  

To make:  Bring to a boil 4 C of water and add contents of jar.  Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring until thickened.  Serves 4.

 To make this breakfast in a jar shelf stable you will need to get all the oxygen out of it.  To do this you can put an oxygen absorber in the jar and close the lid and ring,  OR use your foodsaver to suck all the air out and give it an airtight seal.

 I use a foodsaver canister to seal my jars but you can use the foodsaver jar attachments too.  The shelf life of the jars sealed is 7-10 years!!

Click HERE for the carrot pudding,  and HERE for a breakfast ham and zucchini recipe.

When I make a quart sized meal in a jar we use a funnel to keep the mess to a minimum, but with the pint jars it was easier to just measure directly into the jar.  As always I had a "helper" in the kitchen.  She is 4 and this is a perfect job for her!

 Honeyville's freeze dried strawberries  are really good!  My kids eat them mixed with the freeze dried apples for a snack.  They retain their shape during the freeze drying process and look just like a strawberry.  I wish I had a picture of the raspberries because they look exactly like little raspberries but dry.  And I want to mention that my daughter's hands are not dirty but have cocoa powder on them from making the mix :)  

Another great idea to add some needed protein to your breakfast is to add soy protein powder.  Honeyville, of course, sells it and it has no flavor so it can be added to anything.  I add it to oatmeal, smoothies, shakes, cream of wheat, etc.  I only add 1 T or less to a serving of oatmeal or cream of wheat.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Food Storage Teacher Gift- Take 2

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This is totally last minute for some of you but this is what my kids are giving their teachers this year as a thank you.  (this is what we did last year) I save soda bottles for my water storage and I have saved these empty ones for months so I could make these gifts.  

 We stuffed the soda bottles with some of the teachers favorite things, like candy, soda, gift cards, school supplies, etc.  To do this cut a flap (don't cut off the flap, you'll need to tape it back to the bottle) out on the side of the bottle (sorry no photo)  and tuck all the goodies inside.  Then tape closed the flap and place the label over the top of it.  

 This is a top view of the bottles and you can see all the goodies inside.  

 The label we made said "Bottled Especially For - teacher name- By the 'family name' bottling company"  I covered up my daughter's name but her name is under the strip of paper and my kids wanted their birth year instead of this year's school year :)  Now it looks like the bottled has "aged" since their birth, it should be tasty by now :)  I added a bow after I took this to finish it off.  If you have any water storage using soda bottles you could easily put together a gift for Father's Day, Graduation, or birthdays. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Prepare Today Homemade- Cupcakes with Beans

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With 5 kids, birthdays seem to happen quite a bit at our house.  My son's birthday was this past weekend and besides his cake, he needed cupcakes to share with his class.  I thought this would be a perfect time to use food storage. (they will never know, hehe)  I substituted white beans for the oil called for in the boxed cake mix that I used.  (white beans for yellow cake, black beans for chocolate cake)

 I followed the cake mix exactly like it says on the cake mix box except for the oil.  My cake mix called for 1/3 C oil and I simply added 1/3 C pureed white beans instead.  They bake up just as moist and fluffy as oil baked cupcakes.

My son wanted a Lego birthday and I found a Lego chocolate mold so we made Lego pieces to sit on top of the cupcakes.  After melting the chocolate I thought if I hadn't used the microwave to melt the chocolate I could have used my Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker as a double boiler and melted the chocolate that way.  Why do I always think of these things after??
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